I watched three Democratic candidates for governor participate in KATV's town hall the other night.
I found myself fantasizing that people who spoke as they spoke and presented the sensibilities they presented actually could be governor of a state where the presumptive favorite for the office is a talking-point automaton and former official falsifier for an insurrectionist.
Since I was dreaming anyway, I settled on Dr. Chris Jones for governor and on one of his Democratic primary rivals, James "Rus" Russell, as his gubernatorial spokesman.
The third candidate, Dr. Anthony Bland, is a public school teacher and thus a better qualified state education secretary than the current one, Johnny Key, who brought experience operating a day-care center to the position.
A fourth announced Democratic candidate, Supra Xayprasith-Mays, had a scheduling conflict.
I'll share with you the prime example of what I observed that led me to dream of deploying these Democratic candidates in the aforementioned way.
The question was about critical race theory, which is the subject of Republican scare tactics about liberals poisoning our children's minds by teaching in schools the theory's supposed premise that America is evil.
In fact, critical race theory is post-graduate material that ... well, I'll turn things over at this point to Dr. Chris Jones. He's the Ph.D. who brings to the governor's race the greater polish of the three participating in the town hall. He offers probably the most impressive academic resume ever presented to Arkansas voters as a gubernatorial option. And that's counting a Rhodes Scholar.
Here's what Jones said, presented in a way that led me to suspect he'd expected the query and loaded up for it:
"I chuckle because [critical race theory] is a boogeyman that doesn't exist. Critical race theory is taught in advanced-level law classes. I have a third-grader. What they're teaching is the multiplication table. What they're teaching is how to think critically about the relationships with each other.
"And the other thing I'll say is that I am a scientist. And so, when I think about research, it is important to look back at the past and to understand what worked and didn't work because that knowledge that I learned from the past will help me make better decisions to prepare me for the future.
"And as a Christian, as a person of faith, when I think about my faith, it is grounded because I've asked the tough questions of it. And so, if my faith can't stand up to the tough questions, it's not a strong faith. I think our state can handle the tough questions. It can handle the analysis, and that's what makes it better.
"And the last thing I'll say is my family has been here in the state for over 200 years. There were certainly times in that period that were not good, where the state made bad decisions, and even fast-forward to the Little Rock Central High crisis. We know, the pictures show, that there were things that we did wrong. And the only way that we can fix those for the future is to understand them."
That might have been the best answer I'd ever contemplated from an office-seeker except maybe for the assessment of critical race theory as an issue offered in this same forum by Russell, the rival nominated in my dreams for the job of Jones' press spokesman.
Russell, who owns and operates a mental health clinic with his wife who has a master's degree in counseling, said critical race theory "is a red herring blowing a dog whistle inside a straw man."
Earlier Russell had referred to "infectivity" and "virology" and said a mask mandate was "not draconian but beneficent."
Imagine an Arkansas led by a scientist and preacher with thoughts as well-formulated and expressed as those of Jones. Then imagine the colorful quotations tossed out by Russell as press spokesman.
You'd have thoughtfulness at the highest level. You'd have vocabulary lessons at the secondary level. We'd enter an era of the profound and the glib.
Surely you find that preferable to the insulting and rote national Republican rhetoric of a career political operative existing solely in service to the Donald Trump ego.
Yeah, I know. Still dreaming.
But let a man dream for one column at least.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at [email protected] Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.